Six Injured in Blaze at House

Family flees as fire, smoke overtake home

vpatton@mercedsunstar.comMarch 12, 2013 

— Six people were injured after a large fire broke out Monday morning inside a three-bedroom home in east Merced.

Three of the injuries were burn-related and three were because of smoke inhalation, according to Engineer Jim Evans of the Merced Fire Department. One of the injured was burned while trying to rescue others at the house.

The cause of the blaze remains under investigation.

Firefighters were called at 5:32 a.m. and arrived at 5:35, finding the 2331 Green St. house engulfed in fire, with flames coming out of the doors and windows.

Upon arrival, firefighters were told by a resident that everyone had made it out.

After searching the house, however, firefighters found one person unconscious inside a bedroom. That person was taken from the home by firefighters and resuscitated, Evans said.

Firefighters contained the fire in 55 minutes.

Of those who were injured, two people were taken to Mercy Medical Center Merced, and

three were taken in critical condition to the burn unit at Community Regional Medical Center in Fresno. The sixth injured person was taken to the hospital by a friend or family member. Firefighters kept the blaze from spreading to a neighboring home.

Family members said about 10 people were living in the house -- four of them children. All of those injured in the fire appeared to be adults, and it remains unclear how many people were inside the home when the fire broke out.

James Hall, 32, who lived in the home with his wife and kids, held back tears as he described the scene.

Hall was alerted to the fire after hearing his dogs howling. "I heard my brother, and people screaming and yelling, so I ran around the side and tried to get in the back. There was way too much heat, too much smoke," Hall recalled.

He witnessed his brother, who was covered in flames, trying to pull out their mother, who was burned and on the floor. "The flames pretty much overtook him," Hall said. "He collapsed at the door," Hall said.

Hall grabbed his mother and brought her out into the yard. "The only thing I could think about, the kids were all out with the wife," he said. "I was looking around and I couldn't find my brother's wife ... She was actually still inside. (The firefighters) ended up finding her."

Some of the dogs who'd been kept at the residence died, Hall said.

The children who'd lived at the home were huddled on a neighbor's porch Monday morning after the blaze while firefighters went about their investigation.

Kevin Taylor, a next-door neighbor, said his wife, Elyce, gathered the children together after the fire. Neighbors came by, giving the kids food and offering comfort.

Taylor said he'd been on his way to work when his wife called about the fire. He immediately rushed back home. "It's a shame, it really is," Taylor said.

Nineteen firefighters, five engines, one truck and a battalion chief responded to the fire. Firefighters with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection responded to assist with the investigation.

Merced Fire Chief Mike McLaughlin said federal investigators with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives have been called to help fire investigators because of the number of people who were hurt.

The Red Cross responded to help those displaced by the fire.

City Editor Victor A. Patton can be reached at (209) 385-2431 or vpatton@mercedsunstar.com.

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